Survey Says Child Inactivity is Top Health Risk

Lack of exercise is No. 1 in a top 10 list of health concerns facing kids, according to a survey of adults across the United States..

Lack of exercise is No. 1 in a top 10 list of health concerns facing kids, according to a survey of adults across the United States.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health offers its annual top 10 list, in which a nationwide sample of adults was asked to identify the top 10 biggest health concerns for kids in their communities.

For the first time, not enough exercise was rated by most adults at the top of the list (39 percent). That was followed closely by childhood obesity (38 percent), and smoking and tobacco use (34 percent).

“Childhood obesity remains a top concern, and adults know it is certainly linked to lack of exercise,” says Matthew M. Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. “The strong perception that lack of exercise is a threat to children’s health may reflect effective recent public health messages from programs such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign.

“But adequate exercise offers many more benefits other than weight loss or preventing obesity—such as better attention and learning in school and improved sense of well-being,” says Davis, associate professor of pediatrics and internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and associate professor of public policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

The rest of the poll results are:
4. Drug abuse (33 percent)
5. Bullying (29 percent)
6. Stress (27 percent)
7. Alcohol abuse (23 percent)
8. Teen pregnancy (23 percent)
9. Internet safety (22 percent)
10. Child abuse and neglect (20 percent)

“The strong connection of many of the top 10 child health concerns to health behaviors among children and adolescents underscores the importance of public programs and communication initiatives—for example, those designed to prevent drug abuse, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and teen pregnancy,” Davis says.

Community concerns

The poll’s results varied based on race/ethnicity. Hispanic adults were more likely to rate childhood obesity first (44 percent), followed by not enough exercise (38 percent), and also rated drug abuse higher than smoking and tobacco use.

Black adults had higher levels of concern about smoking and tobacco use, ranking that most often (43 percent). They also had high levels of concern about racial inequality, ranking it seventh on the list, and gun-related injuries, ranking that ninth.

Black and Hispanic adults both identified sexually transmitted infections as a greater concern for kids in their communities than did white adults.

“Child health varies across communities, and these results emphasize a need for local programs that respect and address community-specific health priorities for youth,” Davis said.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health is funded by the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and the University of Michigan Health System.

The report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by GfK Custom Research, LLC for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies.

The survey was administered in May 2012 to a randomly selected, stratified group of 2,144 adults age 18 or older from GfK’s web-enabled KnowledgePanel, which closely resembles the US population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau.

The survey completion rate was 62 percent among panel members contacted to participate. The margin of error is ±2 to 4 percentage points and higher among subgroups.